Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown, your favourite historian, everybody’s favourite historian, original, innovative, inspiring and inspired, charming, charismatic, scholarly, erudite, historian supreme, a right boyo, a big hit with the girls, self-effacing, humble, modest, a genius, a hawk-eye for historical detail, the pride of Barrystown and above all—wily. As St Kevin of Kilkevan said it would always be gold and silver for the Barrystown children—and more of the gold than the silver! If it is true it ain’t bragging.

This is the reply from the Bannow Man to Spectator in the spirited controversy between these two correspondents conducted in rival newspapers in 1856. Did the Irish Rover set sail that year? The Bannow Man wrote to the People, the newly established newspaper with a radical outlook on the land question: it wanted an end to landlordism. Spectator wrote to the Wexford Independent, a pro-Catholic newspaper but seeking kindness from landlords rather than their abolition. The Independent favoured the Liberal or Whig party and its editor used a sprinkling of Latin in his obituary of Tom Boyse in January 1854. I sometimes think that all newspapers should be written in Latin. Most of the best and intimate news in nineteenth century newspapers came from correspondents writing letters to them, especially on controversial matters. Anyway let us read the reply of Bannow Man:–

“To The Editor of The People

Sir—I find in the Independent of Saturday an answer to mine, from a Spectator, by which –as I will prove, he vainly endeavours to throw dust in the eyes of his readers by a long and ostensibly plausible letter, in reference to the acts of the late Mr Boyse as a landlord. Is it not a little strange how much a man can say in defence of a cause really untenable, it is, perhaps, one those phenomena in nature for which a satisfactory philosophical reason cannot be given; but as we know the darkest hour is that which precedes day, so we must hope that Spectator’s notions though very fervid are nearest to be cooled. If truth be libel, I should in case of trial be found guilty; in addition to what I have already stated in my notice of the 22nd ult., I will now truthfully explain some of the seemingly boasted passages of “Spectator” and then leave him to brood over his exquisite ideas of Landlordism and to an impartial public to decide. He first says I endeavour to destroy that “reciprocal cordiality” that existed for thirty years—he supposes that such “reciprocal cordiality” did exist, then I venture to say he would prove the moon is made of Green cheese from the fact of viewing it from his “City of the sea”. He cannot say maintain that such did exist from hearsay for, I feel assured, a discerning public will not allow themselves to be beguiled into the belief of “Spectator’s” hearsay because he asserts it. He proves Mr Boyse’s goodness as a landlord from his getting roads made; previous to his death, “Spectator” says there was a “ziz-zag, miry road”. Mr Boyse netted Bannow with roads to beautify his property. Was he at the loss? Ah! the county at large paid for them and this, too, to contractors who were invariably tenants of Mr Boyse and who were thus enabled so far to pay his exorbitant rents. But may I ask Mr “Spectator” who was and is at the loss of the land cut up by this net of roads, which are so admired by the “Graigue tourist” and the Wexford “Spectator” ? We might reasonably say it was the good, the humane, and as “Spectator” would say, demi-god Mr Boyse. No, Mr Editor, it is the Bannow tenant, who, in most instances, can be compelled to pay at the rate of £3 5 shillings an acre for that, from which he reaps nothing but “sordid dust”. Mr Boyse was no fool, he was a “child of the world”. He next speaks of those “comfortable farmhouses, those bright specks in the landscape” which so much enchant and lead captive the Graigue “tourist” and “Spectator”, who are, I believe, from good reasons, one and the same important personage. Mr Boyse, in most instances, contributed to their erection and when the leases of the occupiers were expired he raised the rents of the land well, that it might keep tally with those “bright specks” and thus, in addition, to the beauty created soon paid himself fourfold for the capital expended. As a landlord Mr Boyse deserved no praise, for his lands in Bannow are let at £3 an acre. This “Spectator” says is a general proposition and as such will be understood by the general reader and which he proves false by this reasoning. There is but a “small portion” of Bannow now let at £3 an acre. Now, will the public believe that this “small portion” at £3 an acre was the only portion ever out of lease under the late Mr Boyse and if more than this “small portion” had been out of lease, we have a guarantee from what I have stated, that much of the Bannow estate would not be let at 14 shillings an acre. Would he, who often said he would not leave his land to the valuation of any man, or any body of men, have let it at 14 shillings an acre? Why, says “Spectator” (who seems to have good logical glasses on him) are there as much wealth and comfort on the £3 land as on the 14 shilling land? This dead “paradox” of “Spectator”, I answer by drawing  from his proposition a deduction which is rather favourable to the grubbing landlords of the county. Mr Boyse let his land naturally worth little more than £1 at £3 and he was well paid it, therefore, landlords let your land naturally worth £1 at £3 an acre and you will be paid it. This, Mr Editor, is the obvious, the evident conclusion of the Independent scribe. Listen, you tenant farmers, to that sound doctrine on the land question held out by the Independent. The land which Spectator mentions as let at 14 shillings an acre, was let under Mr Jacob and Mr Cliffe from both whom Mr Boyse purchased—but has he the hardihood to say it was let by Mr Boyse? I beg to know is the value of an article in proportion to its rarity, assuming for the present that it is—we must all feel convinced of the extreme cheapness of the Independent praise. Mr Boyse found out from his simple-minded tenants what little money they had to spare, this he got from them  for safe-keeping and surely he kept safely for on the expiration of their lease he retained it by way of renewal, on which you may be sure the unfortunate occupier was not likely to lay aside much profits. There are only four or five individuals in Bannow property to whom Mr Boyse gave their land fro value, but even this you must remember he did, having first extracted from them some hundreds by way of “bonus”. “Spectator” says the “more wealthy and comfortable the tenant became the more encouragement he received.” This is quite true but he forgot to add  that as soon as Mr Boyse found out that any tenant was only struggling, from that instant such tenant was doomed, if Mr Boyse could, to take his rest under a “foreign sun”. Who except the Bannow tenants could know Mr Boyse’s relations with them? Who, during Mr Boyse’s life, would raise his voice in expostulation on any grievance? If such man was found, his temporal prospects in Bannow would be sealed. Thus it came to pass his tenants when speaking to one another, would look twice around them before they spoke once. Such was the fear in which they lived. But this great eulogist seems to place all earthly happiness and human liberty in the possession of wealth and gold—Oh! times, Oh! morals, is the depravity of man’s heart after the goods of this earth come to this? I say if any man will kindly propose that “Spectator” be made secretary to Croesius, I will second the resolution as willingly too, as the Bannow tenants would “sign the tile” for his banishment from political life but influenced by motives far different from those which once stimulated the Athenian.

I am Mr Editor

A Bannow Man

November 5th 1856.”

This is our riddle for this week: who was Bannow Man? I do not have any clear idea; Spectator doubted that he was from Bannow but then he would say that would he not?

The estates of Mr Cliffe and Mr Jacob (and King) are online and I discussed them on previous blogs. Jacob had Newtown in Bannow and Cliffe had Kiltra plus a lot of land around and in the modern village of Carrig-on-Bannow. I believe that these were farm fee leases, that is for 999 years but that the owner in fee of them was Boyse. Both Mr Cliffe and Mr Jacob leased out these lands to a large number of tenants. In his letters to Mr Horton in 1827 to 1829 Tom Boyse wrote of directly leasing lands of about 2000 plus acres; even counting demesne lands this would not equal the grant of about 4, 800 acres to Nathaniel Boyse all those years ago. I think that Tom Boyse in purchasing the Cliffe and Jacob estates was buying back farm fee leases of lands that he, Boyse, owned in fee or full ownership. His first cousin Lord Robert Carew of Castleboro in circa 1831 bought from Jeremiah Fitzhenry the farm fee lease of the lands of Courtnacuddy—Lord Carew owned these lands, himself. In the nineteenth century there could several leases on the same bit of land; the owner in fee would lease it to a tenant who would in turn lease it to a sub-tenant; that process could repeat itself several times.

A lease is a form of property; in the nineteenth century a tenant could sell the unexpired part of his lease but the landlord had to be satisfied with the buyer before the sale could proceed.

In circa 1832 Tom Boyse bought the estate of the deceased George Carr of Graigue and I assume that it was, also, a farm fee lease of land that actually was owned in fee by the Boyses. A farm fee lease as it extended to 999 years was nearly the equivalent of full ownership and in the early decades of the nineteenth century landlords became eager to buy back these farm fee leases.

In December 1893 the widow Mary O’Hanlon-Walsh died; all of my readers will recall her eviction from her farm at Knocktarton on a point of principle. She and her son Nicholas O’Hanlon-Walsh made a huge sacrifice of their prosperous farm. She was not short of money to pay the rent but would not pay above Griffith’s Valuation. Her son Fr Davey O’Hanlon-Walsh became an assertive leader of the Land League but we will discuss him on another occasion.

At the Duncormack Petty Sessions in June 1915 “Mr Francis A. Leigh Justice of the Peace, wrote thanking the magistrates for their kind vote of condolence, passed by them, regarding his brother’s death at the front.”

My father, born in late 1907, spoke of the sombre experience for him as a child of watching the trains bearing the coffins of soldiers killed in action in the first World War. I think from the way that he described it that he could see the coffins on the trains. These images remained a melancholy presence in his mind for the rest of his life. He would have been eleven years of age as the war ended in November 1918. As a child in the summer of 1960 I was fascinated with the grandeur of the uniforms of the soldiers going to the Congo on the peace-keeping mission. On Good Friday 1961, I remember soldiers home from the Curragh going up to Communion in their resplendent uniforms. Ironically the uniforms made of bulls-wool (whatever that is!) left the Irish soldiers suffused with heat in the African summer.  An even more grim reality of World War I was that of the soldiers who were blown to bits, maybe unrecognisable and/or buried where they fell or somewhere nearby.

From The People March 14th 1894:–

“The Bannow Dispensary Residence

The memorial from the guardians to the Commissioners of Public Works for the loan of £1,000, to erect the dispensary and residence at Bannow, was formally signed by three guardians and the clerk.”

From The Wexford Independent the 9th of January 1856:–

“Of your charity pray for the soul of Mary, eldest daughter of Mr Stephen Colfer of Carrig, who was suddenly cut off in the bloom of life on Saturday, 5th January, to the deep regret of her afflicted family and friends.”

On the 4th of March 1922 the Co. Wexford Committee of Agriculture and Technical Instruction had (what retrospectively seems) an astounding advertisement. Mr F. Watson A. F. C. L. was to give in instruction in Farriery (putting shoes on horses)  at Mr J. Neville’s forge at Grantstown, Wellingtonbridge on Wednesday 8th March 1922 at 7 pm and instruction would be given on two nights each week for about twelve weeks. Admission free. That is the less funny and confounding part of this story! Read this and put it one’s pipe and smoke it (I should be in the circus):–

“Syllabus of Lessons and Practical Demonstrations in the Principles and Practices of Horse-Shoeing and the care and management of the Foot of the Horse, etc.

The History and Principles of Shoeing; the Hoof and Foot; Dissection of Foot; Nature and Destruction of Horn; the Wall, Sole Frog and Bars and functions of

each; the Use and Abuse of the Frog; Care of the Feet; Physiology of the Foot; Evils of Cutting and Rasping; Toe and Heel Shoeing; Blood Circulation of the Foot; Frog Pressures and Blood Supply; Position of Bones, Joints, etc; Ligaments and Articulations; Action of Lateral cartilage; Prick and Nail Bind of the Foot; Leathers and Pads; Hand-made and Machine-made Shoes; Shoeing for Corns and Thrush; Laminitis and Dropped Soles and other diseases of the Foot; Pathological Shoeing; Calkins, Wedge and Thin Hind Shoes; Special Shoes; Charlier Tips, Rocker, Etc.

Practical Demonstrations at the forge for making various classes of shoes as above. The Proper preparation of the Feet and Fitting and Fixing of Shoes.

At the Close of each course, Examinations will be held and certificates issued to successful students by The Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction.

N. J. Frizelle

Secreatary, County Council, Wexford.”

The confounding aspect of the requirement of examinations is that in that era most young men would be scarcely literate, having attended school infrequently and leaving at or before fourteen. Compulsory attendance of children at National Schools was only then being introduced. Would these examinations have been written ones or simply practical. In the event of practical examinations the people doing the course would have a better chance of succeeding.

From The Bannow and District Notes in The People on the 5th of May 1951:–

“Teaching Appointment—Mr G. O’Donnell N. T., a native of Galway, has been appointed principal teacher in Tullicanna National School, replacing Mr O’Halloran N. T. who has taken up another appointment.

Crossword Winner—Mrs C. Martin, Ballyfrory won a share of the second prize in a crossword competition.

Fishing—Some good catches of bass and mullet were made in Bannow during the week by the local seine net fishermen. The fish met a ready market locally. Trawlers, based in Dunmore East are operating in Fethard Bay. Large flocks of seabirds are to be seen over Ballyteigue Bay, a sign which has always been regarded by old fishermen that fish are plentiful in the bay.”

From The People March 17th 1894:–

“To Builders

100 Tons Granite, suitable for Window-stools, Quoins and general building purposes will be sold in one or more lots.

W. H. Lett, Balloughton.”